Sometimes out of nowhere, games just happen where you have to pinch yourself to make sure this wasn’t some Dallas-like dream or a figment of your imagination. During the first period when the Devils fell behind 4-1 in Chicago after seventeen minutes, it looked like this could be an even worse runaway than I feared coming in, one of epic proportions. Especially losing Mirco Mueller to an UBI early in the game, and afterward he was spotted with his left arm in a sling. I was already getting worried about goalie Keith Kinkaid getting Valiquetted (i.e. being left in to die and allow double-digit goals), and the internet joke was that his usual postgame emoji recap would contain just one – the one for taking a dump. For the better part of twenty minutes, our struggling team with five healthy defensemen seemed like the salve a talented but struggling Blackhawks team needed.
Then IT happened.
At first the ‘it’ was just Miles Wood, who scored the team’s first two goals and kept the team within shouting distance at the end of the first period down 4-2. Still, I would have given Kinkaid the hook at that point – especially with the game becoming theoretically winnable. Coach John Hynes did leave Kinkaid in though, and fortunately the team that came out of the locker room was the one that blitzed the league the first eleven games of the season. My disbelief level rose as the goals piled up. First Andy Greene scored with assists from the fourth line, then came goals from Nico Hischier, Taylor Hall and Brian Gibbons. Literally within twenty minutes the Devils had turned a 4-1 deficit into a 6-4 lead. On the road, in Chicago on a back-to-back. Of course given the way last night’s game went the Hawks had to respond at least once and they did in what could have been devastating fashion with a Brian Boyle penalty leading to Patrick Kane’s power play goal with just seconds remaining in the period.
Yet once again the Devils showed their character and instead of being devastated by this last turn of momentum they came out of the locker room again shot out of a cannon in the third, controlling play for a good chunk of the period – especially early when they swarmed the Hawks and previously inconsistent fourth-liner Wood completed his career night with the hat trick early in the third period (capping a FOUR-point night). This time, the insurance wasn’t needed as the Devils played the third period with a lead the way they seldom have this season, agressively and competently. Even when the Hawks emptied the net early the Devils allowed few quality chances and eventually put away a 7-5 win that evoked images of the 1980’s. If I didn’t know better I’d swear it was Chico Resch and Darren Pang in net in Chicago Stadium. I don’t normally recap individual games anymore, but last night’s ridonkulous game deserved one. Of course I could have just gone full emoji like Kinkaid.
Bonus points if you can figure out 90% of the emojis and who/what they’re referring to without looking them up. I know I can’t.
With no other games until their second trip into Toronto already this season on Thursday, the Devils have at least given themselves and their fans something to be pumped up about in the interim. One game has (at least temporarily) brought back the good feelings from the team that hit the ice in October and further strengthened their tenous hold on first place.